Exploring Portopiccolo, The Italian Riviera's Jet Set Playground

All photos Courtesy of Portopiccolo

A shiny new yacht pulls into a cove like marina. Elsewhere the beau monde in the designer summer wear nosh at outdoor bistros under canvas umbrellas while others step in and out of posh boutiques and galleries. The scene is not Monte Carlo or St Tropez, this is the Italian Riviera in the north Adriatic Sea. It is Portopiccolo, a village like community development created for Europe’s well-to-do to enjoy an exclusive lifestyle and all that this beautiful seaside region has to offer.

Portopiccolo, located in the Gulf of Trieste, is a relatively new coastal community and includes a tony yacht marina, a five-star boutique hotel, gourmet restaurants, a world-class spa, and a beach on the Adriatic coast. The community includes 460 houses and apartments, some of which are still available for purchase or for a memorable vacation stay. The main residents are Italian yacht owners as well as wealthy Germans, Austrians, Russians and Slovenians who desire a second home on the coast.

Portopiccolo has an interesting story. It was a turn of the century rock quarry that provided construction stone for major projects throughout Italy. What was left behind as somewhat of an eye-sore of stripped land and an exposed pit. Visionary developers saw the potential of building a modern-day Positano using the hillside elevations to create homes that overlooked the sea with unobstructed views They also saw the potential to create a protected marina. Fast forward to today and the project is one of northern Italy’s most glamorous communities, vacation resorts and leisure destinations.    

The setting resembles a medieval village with rustic rock walls hewn from the former quarry where the community is located.  The design is a beautiful mix of traditional and contemporary exteriors yet indoors is something completely different with chic finishes and modern and elegant designs. There are a number of shops, boutiques and eateries with all one would need to stay for a weekend or a few months.

One of the key experiences that make Portopiccolo a jetsetter's playground is its beach scene. Maxi's Beach Club is a swanky waterfront hang out where already tanned bodies alternate between taking in some rays on the sunbeds, bottle service in cabanas and dips in the infinity edge pool that overlooks the sea. A few barefoot steps away is the watering hole serving up cool cocktails or a casual lunch.

There’s also a pier that juts out over the sea lined with lounges and couches under umbrellas complete with friends gathering to drink rose’ and toast the good life. On weekends DJs spin cool lounge music while waiters dash about providing bottle service and an endless flow of bubbles and Campari spritzes.

Guests staying at the Portopiccolo will find a range of options in the rental pool which the development operates as a self-catering luxury hotel. The two-room flats are perfect for a romantic holiday and have an upstairs living room space with tasteful ultramodern furnishings in white with calming earth tone accents.

There is a large balcony overlooking the marina or village with sitting area ideal for breakfast al fresco. Downstairs is the bedroom with a second balcony and a full bathroom. There is also a full-size kitchen with all of the utensils and appliances one would require dine in. The apartments have all the mod cons that one would expect in a luxury resort including the latest electronics, fast Wi-Fi and a washer and dryer.

Portopiccolo is also home to Falisia Spa and Resort which is a five-star hotel and part of the Luxury Collection. There are 58 rooms and suites with sea views as well as its own private beach club and pool.

Portopiccolo offers a number of dining experiences from ultra-gourmet fine dining to chips and burgers at the beach bar severed to you in your swimsuit and flip-flops.

Maxi’s is a great place for a less formal dinner.  The décor is beach chic yet elegant and stylish with white furnishing and panoramic views over the pool during the day or sunsets over the Adriatic Sea in the evening.  The dishes are sumptuous northern Italian with a focus on fresh, simple healthy and locally sourced seafood.

A delicious first course is Linguine “ Benedetto Cavalieri” with lobster and cherry tomatoes followed by the Gratinated swordfish with caponata.  The wine pairings are exceptional as well and guests will want to try the Friulano and Malvasia white wines from the nearby Collio wine region. 

For an evening of elegant fine dining, the Cliff Restaurant is an excellent option. Indoors the setting is refined while others will choose to dine outdoors on the terrace overlooking the marina.  The succession of plates is a treat for the palate as well as the eye with each dish doubling as culinary art.

Highly recommended is the tasting menu which features five courses of the chefs innovative signature dishes created from locally sourced seasonal products.  Service is exceptional as well with the professional staff ready to help with recommendations for the dining as well as the wine pairings of local DOC wines.

For the ultimate in relaxation, guests will want to book time in the spa. The Portopiccolo Spa by Bakel is an impressive destination spa center and worthy of a full spa day for those staying at the property or visiting from the area.  The spa is expansive and spread over four floors with pools, treatment rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Guest will enjoy the wide range of wellness rituals, beauty treatments, massages, and aromatherapies. The spa uses Bakel products, a local niche brand, that uses the finest raw materials in its skin care products and was recently awarded the Prix d’Excellence de la Beauté by the magazine Marie Claire.  

The wet area is truly remarkable with a large indoor pool with a water gate into the heated lake-size pool outside. There are a number of water jets and water massage features around the pool perfect for relaxing those sore bones. The outdoor pool has lounge chairs for some serious snooze time as does the indoor pool area. Beyond the pool is the wet area with a high-tech bio sauna, emotional showers, as well as caldarium, tepidarium, Finnish saunas, whirlpool bath and hammam. Another exceptional experience is the salt-therapy cave where weary bodies soak in the saline tank or sit in the cave to breathe in the micronized iodine.

The spa has several special packages and private facilities for couples and groups doing a spa day together. The Panoramic SPA Suite is ideal for couples and is equipped with a glass enclosed sauna to take advantage of the sea view. There is also a relaxation area, massage tables as well as an outdoor solarium. For another level of Zen, one must try the flotation/deprivation tank which is something that most will not soon be forgotten.

Italy has so many worthwhile travel options that the decision of where to go can be a daunting one. In the northeast away from the maddening crowds is such a destination, where travelers can vacation for a few days or a month and never run out of things to enjoy doing. Portopiccolo is the ideal destination to enjoy their world-class spa, beach scene, posh accommodations, dining options and all the amazing experiences that a holiday on the Adriatic coast has to offer.

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 105 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)

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